Le sette vipere

Le sette vipere
Le sette vipere

Aka Il marito latino
Original running time: 85 mins
Produced by Vincenzo Cascino for Accadia Film
Director: Renato Polselli
Story: Vincenzo Cascino
Screenplay: Vincenzo Cascino, Renato Polselli, Milo Panaro
Cinematography: Aiace Parolin
Music: Felice Di Stefano
Editor: Enzo Alabiso
Art director: Demofilo Fidani
Costumes: Francesca Saitto
Cast: Lisa Gastoni (Erika Montesanto), Vincenzo Cascino (Lorenzo Montesanto), Gloria Paul (Mona), Umberto D’Orsi (Emilio Bernasconi, a lawyer), Franco Franchi (Franchi, a lawyer), Ciccio Ingrassia (Ingrassia, a lawyer), Valeria Fabrizi (Claude), Alberto Bonucci (Lorenzo’s lawyer), Solvi Stubing (Inge, a maid), Annie Gorassini (Mitù, Lorenzo’s secretary), Aroldo Tieri (Barbichian), Antonio Devi, Nicole Tessier, Vincenzo Sartini, Alfredo Rizzo (the Italian judge), Alicia Márquez, Gian Franco Federici, Carla Calò, Susana Campos, Marilù Asaro

Le sette vipere, aka Le sette vipere: Il marito latino, is an obscure Italian film from 1964 which should be of interest to European cult cinema aficionados thanks to the people involved if nothing else.  As well as being directed by Renato Polselli, who garnered something of a following with his sexy horror films, it was written and stars Vincenzo Cascino, a shadowy figure who made two of the weirdest eurospy movies going, Sette donne d’oro contro due 07 (66) and Le sette cinesi d’oro (67).  Cascino was also the main man behind Accadia Films, the company who produced all three films, as well as Lo sceriffo che non spara (65), which was also directed by Polselli. Almost nothing is known of Cascino, but it would seem likely that he was someone with money to spend and a desire to make it in movies; and while none of his films were much good or made much of an impact at the box office, they’re at least different.

Lorenzo (Vincenzo Cascino) is a wealthy and successful Argentinian industrialist who should be happy with his life.  Unfortunately, his wife Erika (Lisa Gastoni) is bored and unfulfilled, and as a result spends most of her time lazing around and making life hell for everyone around her.  Encouraged by her fickle friends and with the assistance of a sleazy lawyer, Emilio Bernasconi (Umberto D’Orsi), she works out a way by which she’ll not only be able to divorce her husband and take possession of all of his assets, but also obtain sole custody of their two children.  All it takes is arranging it so that he’s found in a compromising position with another woman.

Franco Franci and Lisa Gastoni in Le sette vipere
Franco Franci and Lisa Gastoni in Le sette vipere

Lorenzo, though, is a devoted family man, and several attempts to lead him astray fall resoundingly short, no matter how beautiful the women trying to seduce him may be.   Eventually, though, he’s implicated thanks to some false evidence planted by Bernasconi and, with his whole life crumbling around him, is driven to kidnap his children and flee to Italy.  Erika, though, suddenly rediscovers her previously well-hidden maternal instincts and determines to get them back, even if it means going to court in a different country.

Against my better judgement, I ended up very much enjoying this ludicrous little film.  Technically, it passes muster without any particular distinction, with cinematographer Aiace Paroli, art director Demofilo Fidani (who’d also go on to become a leftfield favourite) and editor Enzo Alabiso all doing their jobs proficiently.  Curiously, though, it’s not quite as enjoyable as either Sette donne d’oro contro due 07 or Le sette cinesi d’oro, neither of which are made as well but both of which are just a little bit more demented than this.

Polselli seems to be trying to bring a level of order to things, but it doesn’t entirely work: the pacing is completely haywire, with long stretches in which almost nothing happens, primarily set at a selection of ‘glamorous’ parties which gives the female cast members ample opportunity to shake their booties and take off some of their clothes. The script, meanwhile, fluctuates disconcertingly between a kind of heavy handed melodrama and subdued comedy, neither of which are pursued with anything in the way of conviction.  The whole mood, which had previously been quite serious, changes completely in the last ten minutes with the introduction of Franco & Ciccio, who do their usual shouting, gurning routine.  Their appearance feels very much like an afterthought, almost as though they just happened to be free for a few days and were shoe-horned in to give the film some extra commercial potential.

Gloria Paul and Umberto D'Orsi in Le sette vipere
Gloria Paul and Umberto D'Orsi in Le sette vipere

However, what makes this worth the effort is its very peculiarity; apart from being weird on a base level, it also has an odd, jazztastic soundtrack and some rather peculiar scene construction, although this isn’t entirely surprising given the assorted leftfield film-makers involved.  And things get even stranger as the running time progresses: the narrative almost totally disintegrates, Lorenzo starts hearing booming voices in his head (which doing an a-grade ‘crazy eyes’ expression) and the camerawork becomes increasingly frantic.

Things aren’t particularly helped by the performance of Cascino, a rather nondescript chap much given to the over-emphatic style of acting that died out with arrival of the talkies.  He also sports a very peculiar beard, which makes him look rather like a dumpier, less dignified Fernando Rey (with none of the talent), and seems to have absolutely no natural flair for comedy whatsoever.  Apparently, Walter Chiari was due to star, but when he dropped out at the last moment Cascino stepped in to take his place.  Curiously, in both Sette donne d’oro contro due 07 and Le sette cinesi d’oro he played (unrelated) characters called Barbikian, and here Aroldo Tieri plays a character with exactly the same name.  The rest of the cast is fleshed out by a selection of sixties starlets, including English ballerina Gloria Paul, Annie Gorassini and Solvi Stubing.  Quite what Lisa Gastoni, who was already a respected actress at this stage, was doing in this is anyone’s guess.

About Matt Blake 890 Articles
The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.

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